The cloud services explosion

It's not just about SaaS and IaaS anymore; just about everything can be delivered as a service

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Generally speaking, the concept of NaaS allows carriers to deliver cloud-based networking services like routing, tunneling, quality of service, and network address translation using the Internet on a subscription basis without requiring customers to have on-premise gear dedicated to those functions.

Instead of having a networking staff that is doing things like configuring firewalls and provisioning servers to pass through certain types of networks, it's all handled in the cloud. There is a cost savings to taking up NaaS over maintaining a traditional network, but Capgemini's Coyle argues the main reason a large company is going to buy NaaS is because they want to get out of the IT business.

Traditional networking companies have only dabbled in the idea of NaaS. Cisco proposed NaaS parameters to the OpenStack open source IaaS project in the spring of 2011 but has made no announcements on the topic since. Cisco did, however, throw $100 million in financing at virtual networking startup Insieme in April. Juniper rolled out last fall what it calls Junosphere Lab, calling is a NaaS offering, but that service only gives customers subscription-based access to a virtual network testing lab, not a full-on networking service.

NaaS has been recently thrust into the cloud limelight since VMware scooped up virtual switch vendor Nicira for $1.26 billion late last month. That purchase price is 25 times more than the $50 million in financing Nicira had amassed to build its software-defined networking product and represents a huge bet for the server virtualization company on what the next big thing in cloud computing will be.

In an interview before VMware announced the acquisition, Nicira Vice President of Marketing Alan Cohen was already bullish on the prospects of Nicira's chances in the cloud. "I think the idea of infrastructure as a service will disappear as both local and cloud-based networking become simply, well, networking," Cohen says.

Burns is a freelance writer and editor who has over 15 years experience covering the networking industry. She can be reached at cburns1227@googlemail.com.

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